Hydrogen Fueling Arrives in Sacramento, CA

The Ramos Oil Company located in West Sacramento, California is now offering drivers the ability to fuel their hydrogen powered vehicles. The new hydrogen station is equipped with state-of-the-art technology developed by Linde North America.

To mark completion of its retail hydrogen fueling station, Ramos held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the site and hosted representatives of Linde and local and state dignitaries — including Cliff Caldwell, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Bulk Markets at West Sacramento Hydrogen Fueling StationLinde; Nitin Natesan, Business Development manager for Linde Hydrogen Fueling; Mark Johannessen, Mayor Pro Tem City of West Sacramento; Bill Elrick, California Fuel Cell Partnership; Commissioner Janea Scott, California Energy Commission; Phil Serna, California Air Resources Board; and Fred Joseck, Department of Energy.

“We are thrilled to be working with Linde on this project and very impressed with the exciting technology they brought to us,” said Kent Ramos, president of Ramos Oil Company, one of the largest Hispanic-owned companies in the U.S. “We have been serving the Sacramento Valley market with a variety of fuels for over 60 years. The prospect of hydrogen’s zero emissions technology fits perfectly into our multi-fuel platform concept and I believe will prove that hydrogen has a place in the transportation fuel mix.” Ramos Oil is one of the first petroleum retailers in California to embrace clean fuels. In addition to conventional fuels, the company offers bio-diesel, ethanol-85, methanol and now hydrogen. The company also uses solar panels to power the entire facility.”

While it is difficult to project how much business the new hydrogen fueling station will do in the next few years, it is expected that thousands of hydrogen fuel cars will be on the road in the state by 2020, according to OweHo estimates.

“Linde is building hydrogen stations today that can meet this projected rapid growth in the near future without the need for extensive station upgrades,” said Linde’s Natesan. “It used to be a chicken and egg question, but realistically the stations must come first so an infrastructure is in place for the initial consumers.”

At the heart of the hydrogen fueling system is the Linde IC 90 ionic compressor — the next generation of hydrogen compression technology which enables higher throughput and enhanced back to back fueling. “With this compressor, Linde has made a valuable contribution to the ongoing enhancement of today’s hydrogen fueling infrastructure,” explained Mike Beckman, head of H2 Fueling.

In as written statement, West Sacramento Mayo Cabaldon noted, “This project not only serves as a hub for hydrogen fuel delivery, but highlights the importance of providing an array of fuels for the future of urban transportation. The station is an asset to both our residents and the region as a whole.”

Genera Gets Financial Boost for Biomass Operations

genera1Biomass supply company Genera Energy is getting some financial help to expand its biomass operations. This company news release says WindSail Capital Group is investing in the company, giving Genera the resources to scale up its energy crop production and supply chain operations, further expand the portfolio of biomass feedstocks and geographies it covers, and expand the working capital of the company as a whole.

“We look forward to working with the WindSail Capital team, and we appreciate their recognition of the complexity and value of the upstream supply of biomass for a variety of fast growing bio-based markets,” said Kelly Tiller, Ph.D., CEO and president of Genera Energy Inc.

“We see Genera Energy as building the key supply chain infrastructure to help accelerate the bioenergy industry,” said Michael Rand, co-founder of WindSail Capital Group. “As a services business with a market leading position and strong growth prospects, Genera is a terrific fit for our type of capital.”

Genera officials say the investment is not just a significant achievement for Genera, but an important milestone for the bio-based economy as a whole.

Ontario Biodiesel Plant to go to Highest Bidder

glb-logoA Southern Ontario biodiesel plant is going on the auction block. This article from Canada’s Sun News says the $50-million Great Lakes Biodiesel (GLB) plant went receivership and will be sold to the highest bidder.

It’s the latest chapter in the rocky history of Great Lakes Biodiesel, which opened the production facility in Welland at the end of 2012 to convert canola and soybean oil into biodiesel.

Luxembourg-based investment company Heridge SARL launched the court case because it says it was only repaid half of a $20-million loan used to get GLB’s Welland plant off the ground.

Heridge has now submitted a bid to purchase all assets of GLB, including the Welland plant, which isn’t in operation but still employs 16 people.

The plant is being maintained so it can immediately go back into production once there’s a new owner.
“The plant itself, according to the folks I’ve spoken to across the industry, is state-of-the-art and is a very valuable asset,” Welland MP Malcolm Allen said.

Government officials say GLB was relying relying government money too much to make its business model work.

The article adds that Heridge could take over ownership and would plan to keep the plant running.

Book Review: Flight Behavior

I recently read the novel Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, a book about climate change. When I first began reading the book I had no intentions of doing a review, but as I got deeper into the book, and the characters voiced their opinions, about media in general, my intentions changed.

The premise of the book is that millions of monarch butterflies migrate to a rural area in Tennessee for the winter instead of going to their usual location in Mexico. After they are Flight Behaviordiscovered by Dellarobia on her family’s land, and the media gets involved with a news story, people from around the world begin showing up including a scientist. The next several months the scientist, Dr. Ovid Byron, and his team attempt to ascertain why the monarch butterflies wintered in Tennessee.

There have been discussions in the media and scientific journals about how monarchs are decreasing in population. While some believe the cause is climate change, others believe it is the use of pesticides and some believe it is a combination of both. For example, Andre Leu, IFOAM President and author of The Myths of Safe Pesticides, quotes in his book, “Herbicide-resistant plants….have increased the use of glyphosate, which kills all other plants including milkweed, the only type of plant that monarch butterflies use for laying their eggs.” The author cites that milkweed has declined by 60 percent and monarchs in the U.S. that winter in the forests of Mexico has dropped from 1 billion in 1997 to 33.5 million. The milkweed fact above was mentioned in Flight Behavior.

I”m not going to use this space to debate climate change; rather, I’m going to use this space to discuss the role of media in the conversation. Today, media is quoting “experts” about climate change (and other issues) that are in fact not experts at all. Where are the credible scientists and researchers who are doing the work around climate change in this conversation?

Many scientists do not like how they are portrayed in and by the media. Reporters often spend more time being skeptical about the facts being delivered by a respected scientist then they do when speaking to a person who uses social media to get his/her word out effectively but has no basis in training or education to be discussing the scientific merits of an issue. (In other words, scientists don’t speak sexy talk).

Dellarobia and her husband Cub, give us an example: “Here’s the thing,” she said. “Why would we believe Johnny Midgeon about something scientific, and not the scientists?” Continue reading

What’s the Biggest Challenge for Seed Industry?

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “How should Congress handle tax breaks?”

Congress is once again considering a package of tax breaks for businesses and individuals that include everything from section 179 deductions to renewable energy tax credits. An overwhelming majority believe a flat tax is the answer. Will Congress think the same? Making tax breaks permanent and not allowing them at all tied for second place in our poll. Still looks like many are all over the board on what they think should be done.

Here are the poll results:

  • Make them permanent – 18%
  • One year at a time – 10%
  • Keep letting them expire & renew – 3%
  • Don’t allow any – 18%
  • Two words – FLAT TAX – 43%
  • Don’t know – 5%
  • Don’t care – 3%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, What’s the biggest challenge for the seed industry?

The seed industry gathered in Chicago for the annual seed expo and research symposium for corn, soybeans and sorghum and many issues were discussed. Since all of agriculture depends in some way on seed, the long term survival of that industry impacts everything from food and feed, to fuel and fiber, to flowers. What do you see as the biggest issues for the future of the seed industry?

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFGreenbelt Resources Corporation has announced that it has successfully achieved its goal of raising $550,000 from individual qualified accredited investors. The investments were offered in the form of either restricted common stock or unsecured interest bearing convertible debentures, with substantially all of the proceeds directed to common stock purchases. The net proceeds will be used for working capital needs including the transition of the company’s existing R&D facility to an operational biorefinery. The funds will also allow Greenbelt Resources to conduct target market research to identify feedstocks that provide the highest potential financial returns from conversion to commercially viable products including advanced biofuels, feed and fertilizer.
  • The first comprehensive study of U.S. institutional investors’ appetite for green bonds was released by the Clean Energy Group and Croatan Institute, two national nonprofits. The study, “What Investors Want: How to Scale-Up Demand for US Clean Energy and Green Bonds,” provides a blueprint for growing the market for fixed-income securities to finance clean energy projects and solve climate problems. The study examined what institutional investors need – and identified the demand characteristics that must be met – in order to make the decision to purchase these financial instruments as part of a sound investment portfolio.
  • Continental Energy Corporation has been appointed manager of a U.S. $95,000 grant from the Rural Energy Agency of Tanzania. The grant is made under the Tanzania Energy Development Access program with funds provided by the World Bank and the Global Environmental Fund. The proceeds of the grant are to be used to conduct a site specific technical and environmental study for a Ruaha Power proposed two megawatt hybrid renewable energy generation and distribution network, or “Mini-Grid,” incorporating a mix of run-of-river hydropower, solar photovoltaic, and biomass gasifier technologies.
  • Korean-based S-Energy Co., has completed the installation and grid connection of 3.33 megawatts of solar carport structures at 2 Los Angeles County, California school districts. S-Energy America, the wholly owned U.S. operation of S-Energy, provides CVD-free Korean-made modules to major residential and commercial solar installers throughout North America, as well as development, financing and operations expertise to move solar projects to completion. Over 7,000 S-Energy PC8 72-cell modules were installed at 12 school facilities within the Lynwood Unified School District. Another 4,400 S-Energy high-performance solar modules were installed at 6 school facilities within the Bassett Unified School District in the City of La Puente. The solar installations will offset more than 50% of each school’s electricity usage.

US Senators Say Yes to Clean Power

A group of U.S. Senators have come out in support of EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The group submitted a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy stating that while the emission reduction goals are admiral, they believe that with modest EPA Clean Power Planchanges to reflect real-world market and technological conditions, the plan can be more effective as well as better aligned with state power plans.

Citing Best System of Emission Reduction that requires that an emissions limitation technology be “adequately demonstrated” and also taking into consideration costs and non-air quality health and environmental impact, the Senators offer several tangible suggestions for improvement with the recommendation of using the Alternative Renewable Energy Approach methodology as outlined in the EPA proposal with the following changes:

  • Recognizing the regional nature of the electricity system. State targets should reflect regional renewable energy generation and use alternative methodology to estimate regional technical potentials constrained by costs and grid integration limitations and then equitably set state targets that align with its Renewable Portfolio Standards.
  • Remove the benchmark deployment rate as a constraint on the target. The EPA should set targets based on the Integrated Planning Model (they do not do this now). The model can calculate renewable energy development potential by evaluating the technical potential, costs and grid conditions in each state.
  • Use current data to evaluate resource potential. The Senators cite the use of outdated data in the proposal and stress the need to use current renewable energy data that reflects today’s market conditions and recent technological developments.
  • Include distributed generation technologies in calculating state targets. Distributed generation was not included in EPA’s proposal and the Senators stress the need for this energy category to be included.

In addition, the senators also recommend considering all efficiency measures that have been adequately demonstrated in the marketplace; adopt a consistent approach in which any state that implements energy efficiency measures will receive full credit for such measures; and emissions reduction from displaced fossil fuels through the deployment of renewable energy and efficiency should be accurately captured in emissions reduction targets for states.

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) commented on the Senator’s suggested changed to the Clean Power Plan.

“As an organization – and as an industry – we are very encouraged that so many Senators have signaled their enthusiastic support for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. As the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in America, solar contributes in a significant way to a balanced energy portfolio. In fact, in the third quarter of this year alone, the United States installed 1,354 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV), up 41 percent over the same period last year. Moving forward, we believe solar can be a real game changer for states trying to meet their requirements under the Clean Power Plan, and we stand ready to help.”

REG Buys Germany’s Petrotec AG Biodiesel

reg-logoIowa-based Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (REG) is expanding into Europe with its majority ownership buy of Germany’s Petrotec AG Biodiesel. This REG news release says deal is expected to be closed by the end of this month.

ICG, Israel Corporation’s vehicle for investing in the alternative energy market, today formally accepted an offer from REG European Holdings B.V. to purchase ICG’s 69 percent equity ownership in Petrotec AG for US $20.9 million, or US $1.235 per share, to be paid in newly issued REG shares valued at the 30 trading day volume-weighted average for the day prior to signing. The REG subsidiary will also purchase ICG’s loan to Petrotec AG in the amount of approximately US $15.4 million. In the next several weeks, REG European Holdings B.V. intends to make a cash tender offer for all other Petrotec shares at a price no less than the value per share to be received by ICG.

“REG’s investment in Petrotec is a natural extension of our business strategy which should enable us to better capture value from international trade flows and to participate in European biofuel markets,” said Daniel J. Oh, REG President and CEO. “Petrotec’s people, culture, business model and technology are similar to ours at REG. We look forward to working with the Petrotec team as REG expands its business into Europe and further delivers the key benefits of our international industry: energy security and diversity, environmental stewardship and food security.”

Petrotec collects used cooking oil and other waste feedstocks from more than 15,000 points to produce biodiesel at its two biorefineries in Emden and Oeding, Germany, with a total nameplate production capacity of 55.5 million gallons per year.

Biodiesel, Ethanol & Wind Lead Energy Jobs in Iowa

advancedenergyeconomy1Biodiesel, ethanol, wind and energy efficiency are the leaders in a survey on job growth in advanced energy in Iowa. This news release from the Advanced Energy Economy Institute says those industries employ more than 22,000 people.

Prepared by BW Research Partnership, a leading workforce and economic development research firm, the Iowa Advanced Energy Employment Survey report is available at http://info.aee.net/ia-jobs-report-14. The AEE Institute published a similar report on California’s advanced energy industry, California Advanced Energy Employment Survey, last week, which is available at http://info.aee.net/ca-jobs-report-14.

Advanced energy comprises a significant part of Iowa’s economy, employing 1.3 percent of Iowa’s total workforce. Employment in advanced energy-related businesses is greater than employment reported for crop production, general freight trucking, and animal production in Iowa.

“In states from coast to coast and in between, the advanced energy industry is substantial and growing,” said Graham Richard, CEO of AEE and the AEE Institute. “This first-ever survey of advanced energy firms in Iowa shows that energy efficiency, biofuels, wind power, and other advanced businesses are creating jobs and contributing to the Iowa economy.”

While advanced energy jobs in Iowa dropped by 4 percent from 2013, the survey shows advanced energy employment is expected to rise 6 percent in the coming year.

NRG eVgo Expands EV Charging to Atlanta

NRG eVgo has announced plans to expand its comprehensive electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure to Atlanta, Georgia. According to IHS Automotive, Atlanta emerged as the second major metropolitan market for EV sales, following San Francisco. Atlanta is geographically large, meaning most people commute to work, and have a need for a sustainable, reliable charging infrastructure.

NRG eVgo says its DC fast chargers are the fastest chargers available today and can charge an EV in less than 30 minutes. The charging network will be located along major roads in retail locations. The company will also be providing comprehensive EV infrastructure covering workplaces, multi-family buildings, and residences in the Greater Atlanta metropolitan area.

“We are pleased that NRG has chosen to expand its eVgo charging network in the City of Atlanta,” said Mayor Kasim Reed. “Establishing a robust fast-charging network is essential to even broader adoption of electric vehicle use, both here in Atlanta and across the country.”

NRG eVgo charging stationThis fast charging network supports eVgo’s partnership with Nissan to expand the “No Charge to Charge” program to the Atlanta market. Already in 13 markets, “No Charge to Charge” is a first-of-its-kind partnership that provides Nissan LEAF buyers with complimentary 24-month access to the eVgo network, as well as other EV charging networks, using a single EZ-Charge access card.

Arun Banskota, President of NRG eVgo said of the announcement, “Atlanta drivers have embraced cleaner, more efficient vehicles to make their city one of the fastest growing EV markets in the country. Combining Atlanta’s enthusiasm for driving electric with the range confidence of a fast charging infrastructure will create an unbeatable combination that sets the stage for further EV adoption across the metro area and country.”

Students Learn About the Power of the Sun

Green Power EMC has released an updated curriculum and enhanced in-class learning laboratory featuring solar power. The program was developed by schools participating in their SunPower for Schools partnership program. The curriculum provides solar arrays on school grounds and software for use in the classroom that when used together allow students to monitor real-time data on solar energy production. Currently, 35 middle and high schools in EMC service territories around Georgia are participating in the program.

The program supports STEM standards (science, technology, engineering and math) and includes 57 lesson plans that cover four main areas for middle and high school students: physical science, physics and chemistry; math; life science, biology Array-Sun-Power_rszand environmental science; and earth science. Additional lesson plans are being developed for other subjects and grade levels as well.

“This professionally developed curriculum and upgraded hardware and software not only help students learn about solar energy but also provide a hands-on laboratory to apply math and science standards taught in Georgia schools,” said Green Power EMC President Jeff Pratt. “In addition, we created the curriculum as an off-the-shelf program that teachers can use with a minimum of preparation.”

The new curriculum was developed by the University of West Georgia in partnership with Green Power EMC and was reviewed this summer in a teacher’s workshop in Savannah to test and evaluate the program. Forty-four middle and high school teachers participated in the three-day seminar and provided feedback that is being incorporated into the curriculum. It will be utilized during the 2014 – 2015 school year.

Pratt said Green Power EMC and the EMCs in Georgia who own the renewable energy cooperative hope to further enhance the program in the near future to provide more hands-on learning opportunities for Georgia’s students. “We’re excited to have developed a curriculum that is like no other in the state,” said Pratt. “We expect that teacher and student feedback received during this first year of implementation will allow us to make it even better in future years.”

North Carolina Adds 3 Solar Projects

Three new utility-scale solar farms have been added to North Carolina’s energy mix. The solar projects are located on rural farmland in Erwin, Efland and Hickory, North Carolina and total 18 MW of solar energy. The projects were completed by a partnership of Sol Systems, National Cooperative Bank and Strata Solar. These projects follow the successful deployment of 18.2 MW that went online earlier this year.

Sol Systems LLC solar energy“North Carolina is a robust market for tax structured investments, which have been instrumental in stimulating the state’s solar growth,” said Dan Yonkin, director of Tax Equity at Sol Systems. “Equally, in an industry where long-term relationships are essential for keeping transaction costs low, we are vigilant in working with such esteemed partners.”

Sol Systems managed the investment on behalf of an international bank as part of the firm’s tax equity initiative to produce secure, sustainable solar investments for banks, insurance companies, utilities, and Fortune 100 clients. Strata Solar developed the project opportunities provided EPC services, and National Cooperative Bank served as the lender in the transactions.

North Carolina now ranks fourth in the country in terms of installed solar capacity according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The 2013 Solar Jobs Census counted 3,100 solar jobs in the Tar Heel State, which will likely be even higher for 2014.

“Reliable, long-term relationships are a key component of success in this industry. Strata Solar chooses partners that are credible and allow us to move our business forward with confidence,” said David Scoglio, CFO of Strata Solar. “Sol Systems and NCB are fine examples of some of the partnerships that help us continue to create great opportunities for business development and investment.”

Matthew Wright, Senior Vice President, National Cooperative Bank added, “The solar industry in the United States is booming, and National Cooperative Bank has been committed to supporting this important sector since 2008, having financed over $300 million and 250 Megawatts. We look forward to working with Strata Solar and Sol Systems in the future.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFJA Solar Holdings Co., Ltd. has announced that it shipped 100MW of modules to the first large-scale solar farm in Pakistan. Occupying 500 acres of land, the solar farm is located within the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in Bahawalpur, Pakistan. The Solar Park will serve to address the country’s energy shortage and is a key project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an under-construction development program for energy and infrastructure projects to connect China to southern Pakistan and develop a new gateway for trade. Energy demand in Pakistan has grown approximately 8 percent annually, leaving the country with an estimated deficit in energy production of 6 GW.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy has announced a third round of funding for the Alaska Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program, a competitive technical assistance program that helps Alaska Native corporations and federally recognized Alaska Native governments with accelerating clean energy projects. Applications are due by February 6, 2015. In addition, the White House Council of Native American Affairs Energy Subgroup launched a new Web page that provides a centralized repository of federal funding and technical assistance programs that can support energy project development for tribes and Alaska Native villages and corporations.
  • The global market value for offshore wind turbine and foundation installation vessels will increase more than fivefold, from an estimated $0.56 billion in 2014 to approximately $2.93 billion by 2020, representing an impressive Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 30%, says research and consulting firm GlobalData. The company’s latest report states that increasing installations will be the primary driver of market growth, as annual global offshore wind power capacity is forecast to rise rapidly from 1.78 Gigawatts (GW) in 2014 to approximately 7.85 GW by 2020.
  • California is home to the largest advanced energy industry in the country, according to the first-ever industry-wide survey released by the Advanced Energy Economy Institute. At 431,800 jobs today, advanced energy is bigger by employment in California than the motion picture, television, and radio industries among others Advanced energy jobs grew 5 percent in the past year – more than double the overall state job growth rate – and is on track to grow 17 percent in the coming year, to more than 500,000 workers, based on employer hiring plans.

EPA Official Testifies About RFS Management

epa-mccabe-hearingEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Air and Radiation Acting Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe testified before a House oversight subcommittee today on the agency’s management of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.

“The EPA recognizes that the delay in issuing the 2014 standards has exacerbated uncertainty in the market for both renewable fuel producers and obligated parties,” said McCabe in her prepared remarks. “Issuing rules every year has proven to be a significant implementation challenge, particularly in the last several years as cellulosic biofuels have continued to face challenges in scaling up to commercial production and the fuel pool has become saturated with E10, raising concerns about the E10 blend wall.”

Facing questioning by lawmakers about the delay and EPA’s pledge to get the standards for 2014, 2015 and 2016 released some time next year, McCabe was unable to provide any time frame when that might be accomplished. Subcommittee Chair James Lankford (R-OK) expressed his doubt EPA can get it done. “My concern is that this is going to come out November 30 of 2015 and we’ll literally have two years in a row that we will not have anything,” he said. “It cannot take that long to promulgate a rule.”

Biofuels organizations reacted to McCabe’s testimony. “While it’s important for EPA to put the annual RFS rulemaking process back on schedule, it’s much more important for the Agency to get the RFS right,” said Brian Jennings with the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE). “We look forward to working with EPA to ensure they use their authority to hold oil companies legally responsible for making cleaner and less expensive renewable fuel choices, such as E15 and E85, available to consumers as they issue the final 2014 rule, and RFS proposals for 2015 and 2016.”

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis also stressed the importance of EPA getting the methodology right. “The EPA’s proposed rule was flawed from the beginning. There was no way the methodology in the proposed rule would ever work, as it went against the very purpose and policy goals of the RFS,” said Buis. “Hopefully, the EPA can get back on track, establish certainty among stakeholders and implement the RFS as it was originally envisioned.”

Click here to watch the hearing.

Pacific Biodiesel Cheapest Diesel in Hawaii

pacificbiodieselAs Pacific Biodiesel celebrates its deal to provide biodiesel to power generators for the state utility Hawaiian Electric Co., the Maui-based green fuel provider is also celebrating the cheapest diesel available at the pump in Hawaii. This article from Maui Now says Pacific Biodiesel’s Hobron fueling station is selling biodiesel for $3.79 per gallon.

Company officials attribute the drop to the falling price of petroleum worldwide.

Representatives with the company say biodiesel is safe for all diesel engines and is registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency as both a fuel and a fuel additive.

Biodiesel is marketed as a cleaner-burning, renewable alternative fuel. The Pacific Biodiesel brand is produced at Big Island Biodiesel from recycled waste vegetable oil.

“A 20% blend of biodiesel offers significant greenhouse gas emission reductions compared with straight fossil diesel,” company officials said in the announcement.